A week ago, these Sharks met the Vancouver Canucks on their own ice and came out on the wrong side of an overtime battle. Tonight, they repaid the favor, taking the Canucks to an extra frame, this time beating them 5-4.
The Sharks needed to come out strong. With just two minutes and change gone in the first period, Jake Virtanen drove down past Tim Heed and centered a pass that floated across the crease and onto the waiting stick blade of Brendan Gaunce for an early Canucks goal. Despite the early tally on the scoreboard, San Jose looked to be the better of the two teams in the early part of the game.
After the goal, the ice tilted in Vancouver’s favor. A lengthy occupation of the San Jose zone was followed by Brenden Dillon being forced to take a penalty behind the net. Vancouver looked dangerous during the extra-man advantage, but San Jose had the best chance of either side when Tomas Hertl took a shot that Jacob Markstrom got a pad in front of during a 2-on-1 with Timo Meier.
With nearly 12 minutes elapsed in the first period, Brent Burns drew a penalty. The improved San Jose power play quickly went to work as Brent Burns looked off the penalty kill before sending the puck to Kevin Labanc, who threaded a cross-ice saucer to a wide-open and primed Joe Thornton. Jumbo promptly sent a shot over Markstrom’s shoulder to knot the score at one.
The Sharks killed three penalties during the first period but controlled most of the play at even strength.
Five and a half minutes into the second period, the Sharks continued the first period trend of shot domination. After pitching a tent in the Vancouver end, a nice passing play between Dylan DeMelo, Labanc and Meier saw the Swiss winger score his fifth of the season over a sprawling Markstrom who had no chance.
Just a few moments later and Chris Tierney drew a tripping penalty that started the Sharks’ second power play of the night. During a scrum along the blue line, Kevin Labanc managed to send the puck down into the zone to a cruising Joe Thornton, whose slapper was no match for Markstrom or Jumbo’s reputation for not being a shooter.
On the play, Labanc added his third assist of the night for his first three-point game as an NHL player. This big game has been the culmination of what appears to be a major step forward for the 22-year-old winger.
Halfway through the second period, San Jose drew a penalty during a Canucks’ power play to unleash the game’s first 4-on-4. Jake Virtanen quickly showed why he’s helped make the Sedin line a Swedish renaissance this season, as he blew by the entire Sharks team for a coast-to-coast marker that Aaron Dell would like to have back. Virtanen lost control of the puck on the play as he attempted to move to his back hand and it slid right through Dell’s five hole as the goaltender moved to react to the winger’s move.
Brock Boeser took a puck into the Sharks’ zone on an odd-man rush with four minutes left in the second. Brenden Dillon and Brent Burns opted for the starfish posture defense, which led to a shot, rebound, and roofed goal by Boeser on the follow-up. Pete DeBoer challenged that there was goaltender interference on the play, given that Alex Biega had pushed Dell off balance briefly before the goal. The referees deemed the play was not goaltender interference, and the tying goal remained on the scoreboard.
With nearly just over a minute left in the third period, Kevin Labanc drew a slashing penalty before Vancouver violated the new face-off rule to send the Sharks to a 5-on-3 power play. After regrouping twice, the Sharks entered the zone cleanly to set up a passing sequence that saw JOe Pavelski fake a shot and find Hertl on the doorstep for the Sharks’ fourth goal of the evening.
As good as San Jose was in the first period, they were equally awful in the second at controlling play. The Sharks took just 30 percent of the shots at 5v5 during the second frame after shooting 64 percent of the pucks in the first period.
Despite Thornton’s two-goal performance on the power play, his line suffered at even strength.
After a back-and-forth third period, San Jose lost their lead for the second time after the Canucks entered the zone and a long shot by Daniel Sedin sneaked past Dell, hit the post, then bounced off Dell’s leg across the line. The third period continued in a see-saw manner as Joe Thornton nearly sent hats flying and Meier just missed the net after a good pass from Joonas Donskoi across the goal mouth.
The third remained a track meet for its entirety, with teams trading chances for what seemed like all 20 minutes.
San Jose controlled overtime despite a frightening Canucks opportunity where Aaron Dell made a rebound save before robbing a sure goal with his glove hand a split second later. The Sharks kept Vancouver on their heels and in their zone thereafter, before Hertl won a puck battle in the corner and found an open Kevin Labanc, who sent a slap shot between Markstrom’s pads for his much-deserved fourth point of the evening.
Despite the exciting game, San Jose will need more from their 5v5 play moving forward, especially their defense. Since moving away from their Vlasic/Braun, Dillon/Heed, Ryan/Burns pairings, they’ve bled shots and chances against. Those numbers bore themselves out tonight as they allowed four goals against a bad Canucks team missing one of its best players.
The Sharks took just 30 percent of 5v5 shots with the Daniel O’Regan, Mikkel Boedker, Marcus Sorensen line on the ice. San Jose needs Barclay Goodrow back to solidify what was once an outstanding bottom-six. Vancouver isn’t a wonderful barometer, but Hertl showed he’s capable of centering the Sharks’ second line. When Couture returns, bumping Hertl back down to 3C and Tierney to 4C would make this forward corps a juggernaut.